Chapter 17: What Should We do Next?
With the telephone receiver pressed to her ear, Samantha sat on the living room sofa, impatiently drumming her fingers on the armrest. It was on the fifth ring when someone finally picked up. “Hello?”
“No, Junzo. Is that you, Samantha?”
“Yeah hi, Uncle Junzo, is Zen home?”
“Yes he’s in his room. I’ll get him for you. Denwa, Zen. It’s Samantha.”
A moment later Zen came on the line, “Hey, Samantha, what’s up?”
“I have so much to tell you. Can you talk?” Without waiting to hear his response, she rushed on. “I know what really happened to Grandma Ameara and Great-grandma Nanna. It’s all here in an article I found at the library. And, Zen, get this, Grandma Ameara was worried about something the night before she was killed! I read in her—”
“Hold on,” Zen interrupted. Samantha heard a door close in the background before Zen then asked, “So what does the paper say?”
Taking in a deep breath, Samantha read from the article in the Hearthshire Ledger, emphasizing certain sections. “Nanna was found in her office, but Grandma Ameara was found in her car at an airport.” And of course, the biggie, “It says both of them were violently strangled,” she finished. “Now I totally understand why Grandpa lied. I mean, how do you tell your kids their mom and grandmother died like that?”
“Strangled… geez… that’s so terrible, why do you suppose someone would want to do something like that to them?” Zen sounded just as shocked as she did when she first read the news. “The article doesn’t even mention if they caught the person who did it.”
“I know, it just said it’s an ‘ongoing case.’ I wanted to search through more papers, but Mom came into the library.”
“Listen, Dad’s about to go out. As soon as he does, I’ll jump on his computer and see what I can dig up.”
“Can you call me back? I have some other stuff I need you to look up.”
Samantha paced in front of the window where she had a clear view of the Kitchet’s home and its occupants. Bess hustled from the kitchen into the sitting area, carrying food like a jolly waiter, while her mom seemed to be in a deep conversation with Kitchet. Samantha became so fixated on the movements of the dinner guest that it caught her by surprise when a tall dark figure appeared on the Kitchets doorstep. Bess opened her door, allowing the homes indoor light to cascade over the threshold, revealing Addiwan as the dark shadow. The phone rang, drawing Samantha’s attention away from the window, the little stone house, and its occupants, leaving them to their dinner.
“Okay, I’m on the computer. Give me a name of a newspaper I can look up,” said Zen.
“I don’t know of any other newspapers in this area besides the Hearthshire Ledger.”
“Okay, well the article you read said Great-Grandma Nanna was a ‘prominent professor’. So, let’s do a search of her name and see what comes up.”
Quietly she listened to Zen tapping away at the computer. “Wow, did you know Great-Grandma was also a writer?” He said. “It looks like her last book was called, Only the Land Will Tell.”
“There’s nothing about her death?” Samantha asked, not particularly interested, at the moment, in her great-grandma’s books.
“Hold your horses. Oh wait, here’s something in the Darlington Press. Okay, blah, blah, found in her office by a Mr. Randall, graduate student. Daughter Ameara Fairland, Darlington airport,” Zen relayed.
“Basically, the same stuff I read in the Hearthshire Ledger.”
“When was that article dated?”
“March 25, 1987.”
“Nothing else came up in the search?”
“Nope, I just see the article from the Hearthshire Leger you have, and this one in the Darlington Press. Oh wait, here in the Darlington Press, it does give a name of a police officer. An ‘Officer Bevin of the Hearthshire Police Department,’ the article states, ‘is working closely with the Clarkstown Police Department in this ongoing investigation,’” Zen read. “We should go talk to Officer Bevin. He’ll be able to tell us what finally happened with the case.”
“You think he’s still in the village after all these years?”
“There’s only one way to find out. Go to the police station and ask for him.”
“I don’t wanna go in there by myself,” Samantha gasped. Zen’s laughter boomed in her ear, “Some lady detective you are. What do you think they’re gonna do, arrest you for asking a question?”
“No, I just never been in a police station, and I prefer my first time not be by myself. Anyway, I’m sure there are other ways of finding out if Officer Bevin is still around.”
“Alright, do it your way. Just let me know if you find out any more important information.”
“I do have more very important information to share with you. Remember that stack of books you grabbed from the attic?”
“What about them?”
“One of them was Grandma Ameara’s diary. I was reading through it, when I—”
“You read Grandma’s personal diary!”
“Zen, listen. In Grandma’s diary, her last entry was the night before she was murdered. She wrote two short sentences. ‘Mr. Lin, Maskhim. What does he know?’”
“Does she say who Mr. Lin is, and are you saying mask him?”
“No, Grandma wrote it as one word, like a name, with a capital ‘M’ Maskhim.”
“Oh okay, so it’s a last name like Lin, and she’s asking what they know? But wait, she says what does ‘he’ know, not what do ‘they’ know. Maybe Maskhim is a place where Mr. Lin is from.”
“I don’t think so, because I also found shoved in the back of the diary a note Grandma wrote to Grandpa. In the note, she tells Grandpa how worried she is about Mr. Lin and the news he brings of the, Maskhim.”
“Huh, so you think this Mr. Lin, and Maskhim had something to do with the murders?”
“It sure seems that way to me, or they at least know something about the murders. Look at the evidence. She writes asking in her diary what Mr. Lin, and Maskhim knows. Then she leaves a note saying how worried she is. Zen, she turns up dead the next day! Why don’t you try doing a search linking the names Mr. Lin or Maskhim, with Ameara and Nanna Fairland?”
“Good idea.” Again, Samantha could hear Zen tapping away. “Nothing comes up by linking the names. I’ll try the word Maskhim by itself. Maybe it will give us a clue if this is a name or a place.” After a few seconds, Zen reports, “Nope, it’s just giving me things like Halloween masks and stuff like that.”
“Mmm. Do you think Grandpa gave this note and the information in the diary to the police? And if he did, I wonder if the police found out who Mr. Lin and Maskhim are, and questioned them.”
“I’m sure he did,” said Zen. Why wouldn’t he?”
“I don’t know, I’m just thinking out loud. I’ll do some more investigating around here. If I find out anything else, I’ll call you.”
“I’ll be here. Hey, have you seen that butterfly?”
“I haven’t seen the butterfly, but I did meet a marvel! Actually two marvels.”
“You’re kidding me. See, I knew I shouldn’t have left! Wait, what do you mean you met a marvel? They’re people?”
“Well, what then? Come on, give.”
“Not with the trees again.”
“Zen, the tree outside my bedroom window talked to me. I mean really talked to me like I’m talking to you.”
“Are you sure you didn’t hear it all in your own head.”
“No, it wasn’t in my head. Not only that, Mom and I actually saw a tree essence. She introduced herself to us.”
“Essence? Like what Aunt Mayra talked about?”
“Yeah, it’s like the tree’s spirit, their soul. She said her name is Ashlynn, and—”
“I have to say, it all sounds unbelievable, and a bit weird.”
“Hey, I was there and it took me a minute to believe it. But you know, after the initial shock of it, it all seemed normal, not weird at all.”
Samantha filled Zen in about Essences Flower shop, meeting Rhiannon, and the search for Muaura’s book.
“Man, I can’t wait till Uncle Craig gets here. Have you heard from him?”
“No. Not yet, he’ll probably call sometime tonight or tomorrow.”
Before hanging up, there was one more thing Samantha wanted to share with Zen. It was a nagging suspicion she had ever since she learned about the phone call Grandpa Innis received before he died.
“Zen, what if … what if the person who called Grandpa was actually the person who murdered Ameara, and Nanna? Maybe Grandpa found something out and the murderer lured him away from the house and killed him. We don’t really know Grandpa died of pneumonia. That’s just what the Kitchets and Aunt Mayra told us and we both know they haven’t been truthful in the past about how our relatives died.”
“I was wondering the same thing. That’s why I told you to go to the police station. If Officer Bevin is still there, you can ask him if he was the one who called Grandpa.”
“And if he says he didn’t call? What then?” Samantha heard no response on the other end of the line. “Zen, if it wasn’t Officer Bevin it had to be the person who killed them, right?
“Let’s think about that later,” he finally answered. “Look, don’t worry so much. I bet it was Officer Bevin who called.” Samantha could tell from the tone in Zen’s voice that he was only trying to make her feel better.
“Yeah, you’re probably right, you know me, too many of those mystery novels,” she said, poking fun at herself. “Anyway, I have to go. I haven’t had dinner and my stomach is starting to hurt. You know how that goes.” Samantha knew the peculiar feeling in her stomach had nothing to do with hunger, but the possibility that the killer was the caller and somewhere still out there, maybe very close to their home that caused the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of her stomach.
“Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. I need to eat before heading over to Dad’s art show. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Hey, Samantha, we’ll go to the police station together when I get there, okay?”
Telling herself to put all thoughts of the murder case out of her mind, she headed for the kitchen. The sound of the refrigerator door drew Gypsy to her side to join in on the food hunt. “Hungry? Me too. Let’s see what we have in here.”
Finding several pieces of ham, she dumped them into the dog’s dish. “There yah go girl, it’s all yours. I think I’ll have some cookies.”
Rummaging in the cupboards, she didn’t find one box of cookies. “Oh yeah I forgot, Mom hasn’t had time to stock up, but I bet who will have nice homemade cookies. Come on, let’s go visit Bess.”
Holding her coat closed as the wind tried to wrestle it open as she walked across the yard, she reached the Kitchet’s front door expecting to hear people laughing and talking from inside, but it was quiet. Knocking softly, she waited patiently for someone to answer. No one did, so she knocked again, louder this time, with still no response from the guest at the dinner party. Walking over to the window, Samantha peeked in and was surprised to see the small front room was empty.
“Where’d they all go?”
Going back to the front door, she twisted the door-handle and found it to be unlocked. Hesitantly, she stepped inside the small cozy home. A fire still burned in the fireplace and dirty dishes were still on the table.
“Hello, it’s just me, Samantha,” she called out, standing in the middle of the Kitchet’s front room. The house was quiet. Obviously, no one was home. She turned to leave when Gypsy took off into another room.
“Gypsy, come here girl,” she whispered, chasing after the dog.
She found her in the kitchen, scratching at a rug inside of Bess’s pantry. “Don’t do that, let it alone, girl,” she said, trying to push the large dog off the rug. Gypsy barked, and wagged her tail before grabbing a mouthful of the rug, dragging it across the floor.
“It’s no time for play.” Samantha tried to retrieve Bess’s rug before its destruction. Walking across the kitchen floor, she noticed a difference in the sound of the floorboards where the rug had been. Looking closer at the wooden slates, she could see a small gold latch in one of the boards. Kneeling, she pulled on the latch and it lifted up four floorboards at one time. She was now staring into a hole in Bess’s pantry with steps leading downward, but it was too dark to see where they led. Could mom and the others be down here, why? “Mom…Bess?” she yelled into the hole, but she only heard the echo of her own voice. “Let’s go home Gypsy.” Lowering the floorboards, she put the rug back in its place, and left the Kitchet’s warm home.
They could’ve gone to Addiwan’s house, she was thinking to herself when Gypsy suddenly stopped and turned back towards the Kitchet’s house, barking. Ascending from behind the Kitchet’s small stone home was a shadow. What is that! Against the moonlit sky, the shadow grew wings and flew towards Samantha, sending her bolting for her house. She burst through the front door, just as she heard the flapping of the wings above her head.
“Mom! Where’d you come from?” she panted.
“The kitchen, I was just about to come up and check on you.”
“But, where have you been?”
“Don’t you remember? I went to the Kitchet’s house for dinner,” Anna said, walking into the living room, switching off lights. “Did you fall asleep?”
“No, I was talking to Zen.” Going over to the window, Samantha pulled back the curtain and looked out towards the Kitchet’s house. Like earlier that evening, she saw into the Kitchet’s front room. Bess was shutting off lights, and Kitchet drew the curtains.
“How is Zen, is he looking forward to his trip back here?”
“Yeah he is. But, Mom, I was just at the Kitchet’s house and no one was there. And by the way, there’s a large human sized bird flying around this property. It tried to attack me!”
A look came across Anna’s face that Samantha recognized as the look she gives when she’s trying to hide something. First the look then she’d give her a simple explanation, before she changed the subject altogether.
“Don’t be silly, I was probably on my way home when you came over. I left by way of Bess’s kitchen. And perhaps it was an eagle you saw or some other bird of prey. Did your dad call?”
“No, Dad didn’t call, but—”
“Turn that light off near the front door,” Anna said, already halfway up the steps. “I’m opening up the flower shop in the morning, so I have to get to bed. Goodnight, Sweetheart.”
Samantha knew something happened over at the Kitchets, and it was apparent her mom didn’t want to share it with her. That’s fine, she told herself. I’m just glad she’s home. She can have her secrets. Samantha sure did.
Samantha rolled over in bed and caught her mom looking in on her before easing her bedroom door back closed. Is it morning already? Judging by the darkness of her room, she guessed it must be the middle of the night. Her clock read 11:45 p.m. confirming her suspensions. Awake now, she figured she’d go crawl in bed with her mom, like she used to do when she was younger when her dad worked late.
“No, it’s okay. Samantha was just talking in her sleep again.”
I talk in my sleep? I never knew that. Samantha stood in the hall, right outside her parent’s bedroom door.
“Sam, it’s amazing!” Anna said.
Oh, she’s on the phone with Aunt Sam.
“No, I’m telling you, it’s all real. Just like when we were kids, but there is so much more. When do you think you and Junzo can get back here?”
She must be telling her all about Terrance and Ashlynn.
“They said it was time I saw it for myself, so the Kitchets and Addiwan took me there.”
See it for herself? Where’d she go?
“Call me tomorrow and let me know your plans.”
Hearing her mom ending her call, Samantha ran back to her own room. Sitting in bed, she contemplated where her mom could have gone and saw something so amazing. She couldn’t have left the property. Smiling, she thought of someone who may know the answer to her question. Tiptoeing over to her window, she whispered out into the cold night air. “Terrance, are you there?”
“Where else would I be?” Terrance asked. “Would you like to hear another story?”
“No thank you. I wanted to ask you a question. Is there a secret place not too far from the Kitchet’s house?”
“If it is a secret, how would I know? That is the whole point of a secret, right?”
“Yes, you’re right.” Samantha tried another way to ask her question. “Are there other places on this property that I haven’t discovered yet?”
“I cannot answer that question since I am not aware of all the places you have discovered. Are you sure, you don’t want another story? It may help you go off to sleep.”
“No, that’s okay, Terrance. I think I can go back to sleep on my own. Night.”
“Sweet dreams, Samantha.”